When Joanne Vesay’s, PhD, CCC-SLP
, youngest daughter, Jenny, was born with special needs, she knew the early warning signs.
Although it’s difficult for any parent to learn their child has a disability, Jenny’s circumstances weredifferent in that her mom has expertise in the area of communication disorders and early intervention.
A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Dr. Vesay works as a clinical educator at the Speech-Language Institute
(SLI) of Salus University as well as an independent contractor at her private practice, Monarch Pediatric, in Bucks County, Pa.
After earning a Master of Science degree in Communication Disorders from Penn State University but prior to pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Dr. Vesay chose to focus her career on children during her clinical experience at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va.
“I worked with a variety of patients at the Children’s Hospital, including babies, infants, kids who were trach-dependent as well as augmentative communication,” said Dr. Vesay, who joined SLI in 2018. “I really found that I wanted to work with the younger population.”
At her private practice, Dr. Vesay works with children ranging in age from 18 months to three-years-old, conducting initial and annual evaluations. After working in schools throughout her career, she enjoys working with families on a more in-depth level, performing early intervention and what she refers to as “parent coaching.”
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of teaching a parent how to play with a child and how to elicit language in a natural way. We look at routines throughout their day,” she said. “We want to help parents and give them the help that they need to help their child.”
As an educator, Dr. Vesay is a self-described “open book,” emphasizing her own personal experiences as a parent of a child with special needs and encouraging students to ask any questions they have about her daughter Jenny.
“My daughter, who will be 24-years-old this year, was born with a genetic anomaly. So, I’ve gone through all of it with her,” she said. “I always offer to bring my daughter to SLI if the students want to practice testing because when you work with parents, you need to be able to explain things. I might understand just because I have the background knowledge, but I want the students to have the ability to explain to a parent.”
Although not usually associated with a clinical setting, Dr. Vesay wants to help Salus graduate students learn how to communicate with children using their strongest learning tool – playtime.
“It’s always interesting to see the comfort level among my students. I tell them it’s OK to get down on the floor, get messy and be silly with them,” she said. “Sometimes you have to act like a kid because children learn through play. I want my students to feel confident working with early intervention and school-age children.”
Aside from consulting and being in the clinic, Dr. Vesay is an army wife, mother of four, a tenor in her church choir and a sewing hobbyist. Her latest sewing projects include masks for family and friends to wear during the coronavirus pandemic and she will be making her own mother-of-the-bride gown for an upcoming fall wedding.
Scouting Salus as a prospective employer years prior to taking on her role as a clinical educator, Dr. Vesay knew she wanted to be a part of the University’s clinical program where she could work with students in a state-of-the-art facility. She especially enjoys the camaraderie among her fellow clinicians.